CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A rare book collector says he has obtained a manuscript with new evidence that Butch Cassidy wasn't killed in a 1908 shootout in Bolivia but returned to the United States and lived peaceably in Washington state for almost three decades.
The manuscript, Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy, dates to 1934. At 200 pages, it's twice as long as a previously known but unpublished novella of the same title by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane in 1937.
Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer say the text contains the best evidence yet — with details only Cassidy could have known — that Bandit Invincible was not a biography, but an autobiography and that Phillips was the legendary outlaw.
Others aren't convinced.
"Total horse pucky," said Cassidy historian Dan Buck. "It doesn't bear a great deal of relationship to Butch Cassidy's real life, or Butch Cassidy's life as we know it."
Historians, more or less, agree that Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah, the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family. He robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colo., and fell in with cattle rustlers who hid out at the Hole in the Wall, a refuge in northern Wyoming's Johnson County.
For the better part of 20 years, Cassidy's Wild Bunch, which included his sidekick, Harry Longabaugh — the Sundance Kid, held up banks and trains across the West and South America.
The author of Bandit Invincible claims to have known Cassidy since boyhood. He acknowledges changing people and place names. But some descriptions fit details of Cassidy's life too neatly to have come from anyone else, said Ashworth, owner of B. Ashworth's Rare Books and Collectibles in Provo.
They include a judge meeting with Cassidy in prison in 1895. The judge offered to "let bygones be bygones" and to seek a pardon from the governor. Cassidy refused to shake the judge's hand.
Bandit Invincible also describes how Ed Seeley, a rustler and prospector, told Cassidy's gang how to find a remote hideout in northern Wyoming's Bighorn Canyon. Pointer, who wrote In Search of Butch Cassidy, said he believes the Wild Bunch hid there more than at Hole in the Wall, which had become known to authorities.
"That's just really exciting to me because this is really ephemeral stuff," Pointer said. "No one who had not been there or done that would know that."